Israel News for December 30, 2015

Victim Dies
Genady Kofman, 41, a maintenance worker at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, was stabbed by a Palestinian as he left work on December 7. Yesterday he died of his wounds. Kofman, who made aliyah from the Ukraine 21 yrs. ago, lived in Kiryat Arba and was a married father of two.

PM Netanyahu made a statement at a cabinet meeting today in response to Kofman’s death saying, “I say to all those who would uproot us from the Tomb of the Patriarchs – except for a few years in the previous century, we have been there for almost 4,000 years and we will stay there forever. You cannot defeat us.”

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Supermarket Attack
A Jewish worker at a supermarket in Beit Shemesh was arrested yesterday for attacking and injuring an Arab co-worker. The Jewish worker was recorded on a security camera as he punched, kicked and attacked the Arab with a knife. The attack is suspected by police to be nationalistically motivated.

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Election Moves
The primary for the leadership of the PM Netanyahu’s Likud party will be moved ahead to February, as requested by the PM. The early primary will most probably cement Netanyahu’s position as party leader, since no other candidate will have sufficient time to mount a competitive campaign. Nice move.

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Uplifted Hands
Jerusalem District Court judge Ram Vinograd reversed the decision of a lower court to ban activist Yehudi Etzion from visiting the Temple Mount for 15 days after he was arrested for lifting up his hands in the Temple Mount compound. The lower court ruled that lifting up the hands was a gesture of prayer, which is prohibited on the Temple Mount for non Muslims.

Judge Vinograd called the lower court’s ruling a “slippery slope”, claiming that if lifting the hands is prohibited then wearing a head covering or gazing upwards might also be prohibited, since they can also be considered acts relating to prayer. The judge said that the gesture was not sanctioned in the past, and that if police wanted to change the instructions on proper behavior at the site, it should have done so explicitly.

Etzion said, after the ruling, ”From the start it was clear to me that even under the shameful status quo which bans prayer at the Temple Mount, there’s nothing wrong with lifting the hands upwards,”

Honenu, the group which filed the appeal on Etzion’s behalf, praised the ruling and said it “hopes police will learn from the judge’s statements and stop harassing Jews coming to the Temple Mount.”

This case just highlights the absurdity of the “status quo” regulations which prohibit non Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount in any form. Besides being clearly discriminatory, the rules are just impossible to enforce, since the police are supposed to decide what is and isn’t considered to be prayer.

Even though the idea of Jews barring Jews (and other non Muslims) from praying at their holiest site is reprehensible, if the government feels that there are valid security and political reasons for doing so, the regulations should only apply to organized prayer. But preventing an individual from whispering a prayer, without using a prayerbook, is just beyond reason. Where does it end? The judge in the Etzioni case has at least set some boundaries.

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Video Arrest
Police yesterday arrested the groom from the wedding where the infamous video was filmed which showed religious settlers dancing and singing while brandishing knives and guns and stabbing a photo of the child killed in the Duma arson attack. Police also arrested a 50 year old guest seen dancing with a weapon in the video and four other guests, including two minors.

A judge today decided to release all of those arrested on bail, despite protests by police.

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Netanyahu Bugged
According to a Wall Street Journal report, the U.S maintained National Security Agency surveillance on Israeli officials, including PM Netanyahu, during nuclear negotiations with Iran.

The report also reveals how Israel’s military intelligence Unit 8200 and the NSA shared information and technology, but also spied on one another, in what the report said stoked mutual suspicions and fostered what a U.S. official described as “the most combustible mixture of intimacy and caution that we have.”

Bottom line: Israel and the US spy on each other. Now let’s move on.

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